Omololu Ogunmade in Abuja
The federal government at the weekend approved the payment of N164.8 million as the second semester school fees at the American University of Nigeria (AUN) in Yola for the 106 Chibok girls released by Boko Haram.
A statement by the presidentâ€™s media aide, Malam Garba Shehu, said President Muhammadu Buhari gave the approval when he reviewed the progress report on the girls that was submitted to him.
This, according to the statement, was in line with the presidentâ€™s commitment to personally monitor the rehabilitation and reintegration of the freed Chibok girls into the society.
It also said the president who promised that the government would continue to provide full support for the girlsâ€™ education, renewed his commitment to bring back the remaining Chibok girls still being held by the terrorists operating in the North-east by all possible means.
According to the statement, Buhari expressed satisfaction with the progress made so far in the rehabilitation of the girls, noting that they were now back in school.
â€œAccording to the progress report received by the president, the decision to pursue avenues, in addition to military action, to free the abducted girls is in the resolve to protect the lives of all Nigerians, to end the insurgency in the North-east of the country, and to fulfil one of the campaign promises of the president.
â€œIn line with this, the federal government entered into negotiations with the Boko Haram terrorist group for the release of the Chibok girls who were kidnapped from their school dormitory on the night of April 14, 2014.
â€œSo far, two batches of 21 and 82 girls have been freed as a result of those negotiations. Three additional girls were rescued by the gallant efforts of our armed forces, bringing the total number of freed Chibok girls so far to 106,â€ the statement added.
Furthermore, the statement said as a result of the girlsâ€™ experiences while in captivity, they were severely traumatised and afflicted by various ailments and injuries.
Owing to concern over their health, the statement said they were taken to medical centres and also underwent â€œdebriefingâ€ and â€œde-radicalisationâ€ by security personnel.
The statement said it was after the health checks, security debriefing and de-radicalisation programme that the girls were handed over to the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development for further care.
The presidency also gave an account of the various stages of care the girls had gone through since their return.
â€œThe Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development was assigned the main role of supervising the rehabilitation and reintegration of the girls back into society.
â€œLong before the girls were released, the federal government had established the â€˜Chibok Girls Deskâ€™ in the ministry, responsible for acting on matters relating to the abducted Chibok schoolgirls and serving as a channel of communication between relevant agencies and the parents and relatives of the abducted girls.
â€œThe government, through the Ministry of Women Affairs and in collaboration with the United Nations Fund for Population Activities
(UNFPA), UN Women and other donor agencies, embarked on programmes earmarked to facilitate the rehabilitation and reintegration of the Chibok girls within a nine-month time frame.
â€œA hostel in the National Centre for Women Development was converted into a suitable shelter, where the girls were kept for the nine-month period.
â€œThe programme, which began in January 2017, ended in September 2017. During the period, the 106 girls were given lessons in English, Mathematics, Biology, Agriculture, and Civic Education.
â€œIn addition, they were trained in ICT and vocational skills. Professionals were engaged to provide them with psychosocial therapy and one-on-one counselling to help them overcome post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
â€œThey were also provided with religious instruction and comprehensive care by two in-house doctors and two nurses. Periodic visits from the girlsâ€™ parents to stimulate family support and reunion were sponsored and organised by the ministry.
â€œHaving successfully achieved the desired goals of the rehabilitation and reintegration programmes, with recorded significant improvement in the academic performance of the girls, in September, a final send-off party was organised for the 106 Chibok girls and they were subsequently moved to the American University of Nigeria (AUN) in Yola for their foundation studies and continuation of their education.
â€œThe AUN had successfully established a foundation school for 14 out of the 57 Chibok girls who escaped while the rest of their classmates were taken to the Sambisa forest by Boko Haram.
â€œThe absorption of the 106 girls into the school marked the beginning of their integration into the larger Nigerian society, thus fulfilling President Buhariâ€™s promise of providing the best education for them.
â€œAlthough they have been officially handed over to their parents, the federal government will continue to be responsible for the payment of the Chibok girlsâ€™ school fees right up to their graduation from the school,â€ the statement added.